I looked forward to that trip every day while I was sitting in class and every night as I was laying in bed. The wild freedom of my childish imagination had kicked into overdrive. My mind envisioned the Magic Kingdom in epic terms–it was huge–it was fun–it was fast. The roller coasters reached up into the clouds and then plunged down into the deepest darkest depths. Inevitably, the actual trip, though excellent in every way, (I even met Joe DiMaggio for goodness sake) fell short of what I had imagined. The “real” Magic Kingdom was small and crowded, and there were only two roller coasters–neither of them very fast or very scary.
When we spend too much time dreaming about travel we often do ourselves a disservice–better to let the journey work its own magic and then let the imagination refine and mythologize it after the fact. For me that journey to Disney World was all about thwarted expectations. I needed to learn to become a better traveller, and eventually I did. In my late teens and twenties I let the experience of travel come to me without the baggage of expectation.
But now I am the one planning the trips for my family. And I spend an awful lot of time day-dreaming about them on cold winter days during the long work-week. But an interesting change has occurred. No matter how much time I spend imagining or pre-mythologizing the perfect RV trip with my family–they always end up being even better. Even with a baby crying for long stretches in the car, and twins that sometimes whine and misbehave–the trips always end up better than imagined. So I have been wondering, why is this? Doesn’t imagination always trump reality?
Not when you have kids. Travel is even more exciting for me now, and even better than what I can imagine on those dark winter days. This is because I simply can’t imagine how our boys will act in an exciting new environment, or how they will surprise us, and delight us, and make us laugh as they explore each new place. First they are shy, then inquisitive, then delighted, as they throw themselves into the thick of each experience. My boys always surprise me. Every day. Every minute. There is an element of spontaneity and joy that children bring to travel that can’t be matched by traveling alone.
Here is the recipe that has worked for Stephanie and me. The ingredients are simple. Please follow them if you can.
1. Have Children
2. Buy Camper
After that, the kids will pretty much take care of the rest.
Our last day on the beach at the Cape Hatteras KOA was as lovely as a beach day can be. The sky was blue and silver and the water was a translucent green straight to the bottom. The boys played in the waves, and mommy watched all three of them for a while so I could go out and surf. The waves were peaky and fun and the water was warm. While I caught a few the boys jumped and splashed and splashed at the ever-shifting edge of the sand. I think they love the beach as much as Stephanie and I do–and that makes me very happy–because I know we’ll take them back again and again.
Our beach camping trip had been lovely, but it was time to say goodbye to Cape Hatteras and hello to the next chapter of our North Carolina road trip. Not so sad really–we live near the beach at the Jersey Shore.